Heavy snow last Friday caused a friend to cancel a planned holiday get-together. Then, a break in the weather allowed her a last-minute rescheduling for last night. I worked yesterday, plus am trying to get a bit of daily exercise out walking with the dog each day (the little stars on my calendar signify at least 30 minutes activity - I'm really trying to make it a daily habit). This left me but a little time to put together a hostess gift, but I was sure I could figure out something.
I like giving people something I've made when I can manage it. Let's see - what do I have in the pantry? I label my canned goods with the date, and while jelly from a couple of years ago is just fine for us, I think gifts should be the freshest and best. This year wasn't the best harvest for a wide variety of goodies. Hmmm - besides, a jar of tomato sauce or a couple of sour pickles just isn't going to cut it. I really think a holiday hostess gift should be a bit more festive than utilitarian, and still be something she'd like, too. Something she could either add to her party table, or set aside for personal use later. Aha! how about a dried fruit platter?
I have some great dried fruits - harvested at the peak of ripeness from my own trees. Growing fruit in the high desert is feast or famine - late Spring frosts often mean no harvest at all. So in the years when we do manage to get fruit to set, it often ends up being a bumper crop. And our hot, dry summers are perfect for drying fruit; while quite heating up the kitchen with a big pot of boiling canning water, not so attractive. Another plus: when properly stored, dried fruites hold onto that great taste for years.
The big tins in my pantry hold bags of wonderful dried fruit. Pulling them out, I quickly put together a tasty mixture of sizes, textures, and colors - pie cherries, plums, apricots, raisins, peaches, and pumpkin pie leather - little labels for each (the apples and pears, other leathers, are great too - but I ran out of room on the plate). When I gave it to her at the door, she graciously added it to her table. Bits of dried fruit look deceptively small - each bite is packed with flavor and fiber; too rich to eat by the handfuls. There was enough for everyone's snacking throughout the party, plus plenty left for her to enjoy later too.